We just got back to our home base in Yaounde from a two week stay in the city of Dschang. When I was taken to my home stay at the beginning of the two weeks I was immediately greeted by Nadine, my 24 year old host sister, who wore the biggest, most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. Integrating with this family was such a rewarding experience. My four host siblings were all around my age so there was always someone to laugh or dance with. My older host sister had a one year old baby, Divine, who supplied no end of entertainment. We watched music videos of Cameroonian and American bands religiously, and Bruno Mars “Locked out of Heaven” was the favorite. Every time it came on TV everyone got up and danced like crazy.
One of my favorite days with this family was last Sunday. My sister Mimie and I did laundry outside, and the view from the back porch was beautiful- full of hill-side houses and banana trees. As we listened to Kesha and Adele from my ipod we scrubbed, soaked, scrubbed, and soaked our clothes for hours. Most days there was not running water at our house, so going to the neighborhood wells was a habitual practice. To finish rinsing my clothes I went with Mimie to gather water. The next door neighbor had a deep well covered with an old oil barrel and I learned quickly that gathering water is a sport that requires practice. Mimie dropped the bucket down the well, and as she started to lift it I turned to her and said “I got this.” After lifting for five seconds I knew I had spoken too soon. That bucket was heavy. As she lifted the next bucket to the surface with ease I realized that this woman was powerful.
Mimie is studying Agro-Forestry at the University of Dschang and works harder than most people I know. Every morning she wakes up at 4 or 5am to do her homework, goes to school, comes back at around 7pm, goes to sleep, and wakes up to do it over again the next day. This Smart Girl Out Loud wants to change this world by protecting the communities and forests of Cameroon, and I have no doubt that she will be force of great change very soon. Her passion, intelligence, and strength continue to inspire me.